EVERYONE deserves a great Glasgow life: healthy and active, with opportunities for learning and expression in vibrant and resilient communities.

In Glasgow, we are committed to ensuring that culture, sport and access to information are open to all. Creativity, the arts and a hard-won global reputation for staging major events have become part of our civic identity. And we’re a city that puts the wellbeing of each and every citizen, regardless of the hurdles they may face, front and centre of what we do.

The credit for so much of the city’s success lies with our colleagues at Glasgow Life.

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For over a decade they have made an invaluable contribution to every community in this city, not just through operating museums, galleries and sports facilities on behalf of our citizens but also their expertise and commitment to better, healthier and more fulfilled lives.

Like so many organisations the world over in both the public and private sectors, Glasgow Life is now confronted with an unprecedented financial crisis. Lockdown and the cancellation of significant events has led to loss of income of around £14million to date. Losses that heavy clearly require government support.

And it will obviously generate much uncertainty. It presents Glasgow Life and its service users with immense challenges.

But as the phased reopening of the charity’s venues continues amid the toughest financial position in the organisation’s history, I need to stress one very important point. Despite what some Glasgow Times readers may have heard in the past week, there are no plans to close any of Glasgow’s libraries. And no libraries will remain closed for any longer than is absolutely necessary. I say that as leader of the City Council on whose behalf Glasgow Life delivers its services.

Public libraries have been at the heart of this city’s communities for the last 150 years, founded on a powerful sense of equity and justice and built on the principle that no-one should be excluded from making a better life because they did not have the means to access the power of reading, information and discovery. That remains as true today as it did for our Victorian ancestors.

Indeed, those founding principles align perfectly with Glasgow Life’s mission to inspire people in the city to lead richer and more active lives through culture, sport and learning. Even though we face an unprecedented financial challenge caused by Covid-19, the loss of what makes Glasgow a vibrant and fulfilling place to live is not a price we are willing to pay, beyond the necessary precautions of navigating our way out of lockdown.

For several years now public libraries have been at the heart of discussions around the future of public services and how they can support people and communities to engage and participate in civic society, influencing the issues that affect them. This year’s Council budget, agreed before lockdown, included a re-imagining of some public libraries into the development of community hubs. These innovative solutions are needed to overcome the challenges we will face in the months ahead.

Our libraries and the services they provide will not only be key tools to help Glaswegians to recover from the trauma the city has endured this year, but also to rebuild our communities in the months and years ahead. Closing them would not deliver that. The SNP in Glasgow is not in the business of diminishing such vital community resources.

Indeed, the value of the library service has been shown time and again and this year.

Our modern and agile library service helped Glaswegians through the lockdown, supplying over 200,000 downloads of books, magazines and music and welcoming over 4000 new online members.

Glasgow Times: Patrick Harvie was among those to raise concerns about the future of the city's libraries Patrick Harvie was among those to raise concerns about the future of the city's libraries

It may have become something of a cliché in recent months but it remains worth repeating: for the safety and well-being of us all, we must continue to prepare for and adapt to new ways of living and working after coronavirus. And for Glasgow Life, that involves considerable and complex planning around the phased re-opening of venues, including libraries. Glasgow Life, working closely with the City Council, has prioritised the reopening of 61 of its buildings.

As for our libraries, the fundamental concern must be to ensure that our facilities are safe for both staff and the public. It is vital that our citizens understand that we don’t want to keep any facility closed any longer than is necessary but that we must proceed with caution. If the past month has taught us anything, it is the volatility and vulnerability of our recovery.

In a couple of weeks' time, along with Glasgow Life chair Cllr David McDonald, I’ll be meeting with Scottish Ministers to make the case for financial support Glasgow Life.

We’ve already spelled out how so many artists and people in the creative industries rely upon it for their livelihoods. Its importance extends well beyond the boundaries of Glasgow and we’ll make that case to them in (virtual) person, as we’ve already done in writing.

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Critically though, we still await details from the UK Government on how and when it intends to compensate local authorities across the UK for loss of income during the pandemic. The responsibility for this lies primarily with them and it is vital they move on this fast.

In the weeks ahead more libraries will open to the public again. Please be assured that together with Glasgow Life, the SNP City Government will carefully plan for what comes next to continue to protect our shared heritage across culture, sport and learning, while keeping us all as safe as we can.